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How to protect the elderly from financial exploitation

From strangers' well-orchestrated scams to family members' or care providers' schemes to steal or divert property, the financial exploitation of senior citizens is a serious issue.
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    February 16, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- How to protect the elderly from financial exploitation

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From strangers' well-orchestrated scams to family members' or care providers' schemes to steal or divert property, the financial exploitation of senior citizens is a serious, yet often unreported, issue. And survey results released in 2012 by the non-profit Investor Protection Trust suggest that the problem is getting worse. It found that 20 percent of Americans over the age of 65 admit to having been the victims of financial swindles. According to MetLife, the elderly lost at least $2.9 billion to financial scams in 2010, up from $2.6 billion in 2008. Without strong federal regulations designed to mitigate the risk of elder financial exploitation -- or a trusted family member or friend to advocate for their rights -- many seniors who have been swindled don't know where to turn for help.

Why financial exploitation of seniors thatcouldbe prevented oftenisn't

Financial institutions themselves contribute in two important ways to the growing prevalence of elder financial exploitation. First, because they are not required to train employees to recognize and report elder financial exploitation, most do not conduct such training. Second, they routinely refuse to disclose information that could identify perpetrators on the grounds that disclosure could violate federal privacy laws or internal policies. In fact, adult protective services officials in California, New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois have reported that they are often denied access to the records of financial institutions in spite of exceptions to federal laws that allow disclosure to prevent fraud or to comply with civil or criminal investigations.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to the rescue?

The recently created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau may be the perfect agency to take on the issue of financial scams, not only to protect the elderly but anyone who might fall victim to con artists and charlatans determined to separate people from their money. The CFPB might be in a position to develop training for banks on how to identify and report financial exploitation. It might even be able to demand that financial advisors report suspicions of elder financial exploitation. The question remains whether it will ultimately have the power -- and political will -- to act

How an elder law attorney can help

Until regulations are put in place to make it easier to catch and prosecute financial scammers, a private lawsuit is one of the only options a victim has to seek justice and restitution. If you have been exploited by a relative, a conservator, an insurance agent, an investment broker, or some other financial actor, an experienced elder law attorney can seek a legal remedy to obtain financial compensation, either through a formal fraud charge or informal negotiation for a financial settlement. An elder law attorney familiar with the exploitation of seniors is your best defense.

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